ESTONIA - A total of nine people have left Estonia-based Hansa Investment Funds to set up their own specialist Eastern European and Central Asian asset manager.

The team includes individuals in marketing and risk management who created several Eastern European equity funds for the largest asset manager in the Baltic region, but who have now helped to found Limestone Investment Management.

One of these key individuals is Limestone's chief executive Mihkel Õim who, Hansa said in June, had decided to resign after nine years with the firm "following the birth of his fourth child to take some time out".

Limestone plans to launch a Specialised Investment Fund (SIF) registered in Luxembourg for institutional investors as well as a similar structure for retail.

The SIF will have several sub-funds including a CEE socially-responsible fund, an Eastern European real estate equity fund, a Sharia-compliant Islamic fund and a Central Asia fund.

LimeStone said it was aiming to help institutional investors gain a greater exposure to firms in the CEE region.

"The overwhelming majority of institutional investors concentrate on a handful of larger companies that are represented in the few internationally-used indices, while the majority of local companies, especially those in their earlier growth stages, remain uncovered," the managers stated.

The team has a five year track record of managing CEE and CIS (the Commonwealth of Independent States, formerly part of the USSR) equities. Over the last years they have constantly outperformed the index with their CEE ex Russia funds at Hansa.

Officials say the company name was chosen because limestone is Estonia's national stone. The Tallinn-based asset manager also connects the name with the fact that a large part of the medieval old town of Estonia's capital is built from limestone.